"In everything give thanks.."
-- I Thessalonians 5:18
With Christmas scarcely a month away, it won't be long before we take out our tiny burners, select a new supply of leaves and spices and fill our homes with the simmering fragrance of holiday potpourri.
"Potpourri" is a French word for "mixture" or, according to one dictionary definition, "a confused mass or mess." But whatever its origin or current use, potpourri has always meant a collection of little things which, by themselves, would seem unimportant or attract little attention.
My thank-you list this year is like that. Of course, I'm grateful for health, family and the necessities of life, but there are other, normally ignored things for which I'm especially thankful this Thanksgiving season. My list may differ from yours, but some of the items I include may trigger a mixture you can use to create your own, unique holiday fragrance.
First, I'm grateful for what other people know. Perhaps we have to live awhile to understand how incomplete our own knowledge is, or how often we depend on someone else to fill in our blanks. With my near-atrophied left brain, I'm always amazed by those who know how to fix what goes wrong: plumbers who cure leaky pipes, carpenters who remedy cracked ceilings and walls, electricians who safely connect us to a potentially disastrous power source, and technicians who repair anything from computers to cars.
I'm also grateful for what other people say - their wisdom, encouragement and, when neither half of my brain is functioning, their wise counsel. From wondering whether to repair an old car, furnace, appliance, computer, etc. - or swap it in for something new, to deciding when to take a child or myself to the doctor, I'm thankful for those who have faced my circumstances before, and who offer their informed advice without making me feel less than half-brained for my indecision. Several examples come to mind:
- In the aftermath of divorce, from the sympathetic, "Don't try to be both parents to your children; just be their mother," to my personal cheerleader who all but convinced me, "You can get through this; you're made of strong stuff," I owe more thanks than I could ever express.
- In the insecurity of what I do for a living, the occasional compliment about my music or writing, to the sober, carefully-phrased, "Be kind to your readers; people around here are easily offended," I doubt my supporters will ever realize how much their response helps me continue doing what I do.
Finally - and this part of my list could go on for pages - I'm thankful for what other people do to make what I do easier. I don't mean just the Thomas Edisons, the Alexander Graham Bells or modern inventors like Bill Gates. I mean the choir director whose idea for marking his music led to the Post-It note industry; researchers who discovered safe, calorie-free sweeteners and fat-free dressings; engineers who developed flatter, straighter, safer highways; or those who constantly improve the tools with which we conduct our lives.
I'd go on, if I didn't already sound like an Oscar winner at the Academy Awards. But there's one more thing, something I've never heard anyone else say they are thankful for, and something so ordinary that people laugh when I mention it. But move over, Robert Fulghum. I'm thankful for what I learned in kindergarten, too: I'm thankful for the alphabet.
I can't remember a day when I didn't have to look something up - a phone number, a business contact, reference material for a writing project, or other, equally important information. How would we learn, communicate, buy, sell or keep records on file without a system like that? Perhaps this is just a crude way of saying I'm grateful for literacy and order, without which life would be intolerable for me.
My potpourri cup of thanks this Thanksgiving runneth over, and I have many debts I could never repay even if a bill were due.
So, like the Apostle Paul, "How can I thank God enough for (all of) you in return to all the joy I have because of you?" (I Corinthians 3:9).
Maybe by saying, doing, or sharing what I know to benefit someone else.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to seabara at aol.com.)
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